By Kate Snyder
After many years and multiple meetings, a proposal for a 15-story office building with laboratory and retail spaces was met with approval from Seattle’s West Design Review Board. The recommendation meeting on Wednesday was the project’s fourth design-related meeting, and the board ultimately decided to move it forward, with board members sharing their satisfaction in how far the project has come since it was first presented.
Pacific Medical Buildings is the project developer, according to project plans. The architect is Perkins&Will, and the landscape architect is SiteWorkshop.
This project has gone through different owners, different proposed uses and several rounds of design changes during its journey through Seattle’s design review process, including three previous early design guidance meetings. The current design is the latest iteration of a proposal that began in December 2019 with a completely different owner and has gone through different proposed uses – from exclusively office space to research space – in the past three years.
Located at 1305 Stewart St., the building would total approximately 414,725 square feet. Originally, the project was designed to accommodate general office use, according to project plans, but later was presented for primarily a life science use, where it has remained, though plans also include about 6,600 square feet of retail use. Throughout all the changes, the general size of the project has remained the same. Part of the design also includes parking for 249 vehicles and 186 bicycles in a below-grade structure as well as the demolition of existing buildings.
Erik Mott, principal at Perkins&Will, presented details on the project to the board during the meeting. He highlighted the massing concept, which has been further developed since previous meetings. Specifically, board members had wanted the building’s podium to be a distinct composition. Mott emphasized how the project would develop Stewart Street for the public through frontage design and retail uses. During previous meetings, Mott has also pointed out several local structures that helped inform some of the design, such as the Metropolitan Park, Seattle City Light Denny Substation, REI Courtyard, Swale on Yale and 1370 Stewart Street.
“The site is a transition from downtown to South Lake Union, and it’s surrounded by, and defined by, Denny, Westlake and Stewart, all of which are heavily trafficked arterials,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting. “The goal of design is to transform the site with a quality building design, a quality design to the public realm and a quality pedestrian experience, and to include a program that includes state-of-the-art research, retail, open spaces and pedestrian amenities.”
Board members were overall pleased by the design, and noted their appreciation for how the project has transformed throughout the process. One concern that was shared was a request for more detailing in the ground plane, which would contribute to the creation of the project’s frontage into a gateway along Denny, though the board also acknowledged that the project site is a challenging, noisy and busy area. Much of the discussion was also centered around the pedestrian experience, particularly the lighting and the landscaping, which the board had concerns would make the area too dark. Despite their concerns, board members supported the design and unanimously voted for it to move forward.
Joe Hurley, senior land use planner for the City of Seattle, also praised the work the board has done throughout the extended design process.
“I’ve heard a lot of really positive stuff about the design of this project, and I agree with it,” he told the board. “But I would also remind you of all the work you did on this board. This is our fourth meeting on this project, and I think part of the reason this project is as good as it is now, and I think it is, is the work that you guys have done on it.”